New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick started the team’s scouting as they weigh their options in the 2018 NFL Draft, attending Alabama’s pro day Wednesday with former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. Belichick made the scouting days after the NFL Combine where draft prospects showed their wares to NFL coaches and staff. The pro day gave Belichick a more in-depth look at the players they are planning to pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Belichick is a regular visitor in Alabama during pro days. He was seen talking with Alabama head coach and good friend Nick Saban.

Some of the players that could fit with the Patriots are safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Rashaan Evans. Bielema joined Belichick to give his input about the SEC, of which he has extensive knowledge due to his time at Arkansas. Bielema could join the Patriots’ staff, either as a consultant or assistant coach. The Crimson Tide have several top-rated players in the 2018 NFL Draft, including wide receiver Calvin Ridley, cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive tackle DaRon Payne and defensive end DaShawn Hand.

Patriots to release tight end

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Patriots were planning to release tight end Martellus Bennett to create more cap space. A source told Yates that the Patriots will part ways with Bennett, who is due a $2 million option bonus on March 16.

The move will create an additional $6 million in cap space for the Patriots, who will increase their salary cap room to $23 million if the move becomes official.

Earlier, the Patriots declined the team option on defensive tackle Alan Branch, who will officially become a free agent on March 14. Branch’s release gave the Patriots $3 million in cap room.

The Patriots claimed Bennett off waivers after he was released by the Green Bay Packers. Bennett played two games for the Patriots, catching six passes for 53 yards. The Patriots might also release tight end Dwayne Allen, creating another $5 million in cap room. The Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister and Will Tye as tight ends.

However, Gronkowski’s future with the team is in doubt as he is contemplating retirement.

Patriots were in the running for Michael Bennett

Before the Seattle Seahawks traded defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Patriots were in the running to acquire him, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini. The Patriots need to boost their pass rushing heading into the 2018 season. The team failed to beef up their pass-rushing last season after the departure of Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich last offseason. The Seahawks eventually shipped Bennett and a seventh-rounder to the Eagles for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick and wide receiver Marcus Johnson.